In my last post, I steered B2B marketers away from building social destinations focused on their products and services by suggesting they participate in open, social networks before jumping on the community bandwagon. I do think there is a place for B2B communities, but these sites need to focus truly on the community first, not trying to sell a firm’s wares. Case in point: ComplianceOnline.
As a premier destination for content, training, and advisory services dedicated to regulatory compliance, IT governance, and corporate risk management, ComplianceOnline is a model online community that delivers two million visitors annually to MetricStream’s back door. B2B marketers can learn how to build a successful B2B community by following three key lessons: Gather the best content, encourage the community to vet and contribute to it, and give members equal opportunity to engage with potential buyers who visit.
1) An ongoing source of leads. With more than 2 million unique visitors per year and 500,000 registered users, ComplianceOnline drives a huge volume of traffic that MetricStream’s corporate site would struggle to equal. Through strategically placed ads and links, intended to inform but not harangue, MetricStream gets approximately 30% of its quarterly leads from ComplianceOnline visitors.
2) Community-generated revenue. As a small firm, MetricStream simply could not afford to build a huge community site from scratch, and containing costs was a major issue. To offset the expense of building and maintaining ComplianceOnline, MetricStream takes a share of the proceeds from each engagement or sale that consultants close. This arrangement allowed MetricStream to build a catalog consisting of more than 25,000 catalog items of electronic products and 1,000 courses, creating what amounts to a mini university for GRC professionals. It also made ComplianceOnline profitable after the first six months and returned MetricStream’s total investment after the first year.
3) Differentiation that leads to new business opportunities. ComplianceOnline’s success helps MetricStream stand out in a market crowded with vendors. The thought leadership and unique differentiation this site creates helped MetricStream establish a partnership with NASDAQ where ComplianceOnline offers companies listed on the stock exchange specialized, white-label compliance training, alerts, and content to help them to better manage their compliance processes.
If you really want to create an online community serving the needs of your firm, take a further look at ComplianceOnline — and my research — to gain further insight into what it takes to achieve this level of success. Above all , don’t think that investing in a social business technology platform is the end-all to establishing a vibrant community destination. Knowing your audience’s needs, enlisting an existing community of like-minded professionals in fulfilling them, and having specific business goals are more important than making the right technology platform decision.
Do you know of any other B2B community examples like ComplianceOnline that you would like to share?
PS: Yes, I’m still backfilling my posts after a long summer vacation. Stay tuned for more.